Guest-Facing Mobile Technologies: Are We There Yet?

By Mark Hoare Partner, The Prism Partnership | January 03, 2016

There is no scarcity of impressive numbers and statistics espousing the exponential growth in the use of smart-phones and other mobile devices across the globe. Equally we have abundant access to these same data-points professionally refined and indexed specifically to the Connected-Traveler, also known as our addressable market. However, as an industry do we adequately understand how to intersect this market with highly relevant guest-facing mobile solutions? In this article we review where we came from, the challenges we have overcome, where we are now, and most importantly identify initiatives to improve adoption and subscription rates to our guest-facing mobile offerings.

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As a Product Management specialist by trade I am instinctively drawn to the afore mentioned positive numbers and statistics, but must always temper my excitement and diligently quantify, qualify and rationalize them down to the really relevant products and solutions that tightly align with our industry's needs and opportunities. Product Management success can be measured best by its proven ability to intersect a consumer need with a relevant product solution. That may sound easy but the key word here is relevant.

In just a few short years we have seen all sorts of mobile-hosted feature functions designed and developed for the hospitality industry on the back of truly exceptional technological advances in the: mobile devices themselves; bandwidth that supports them; the vast array of other applications and tools with which they can interact; and not least of all the ubiquity of smart-phone usage.

So why, therefore, are we as an industry not seeing the adoption rates and positive reviews we expected? To understand this we must step back and take stock of how we got to where we are today. Let me share a story based, but real-world, scenario with you.

"It is early evening and a large weather system is moving through Western Europe causing delays and cancellations at airports throughout the region. Svenja is sitting at her departure gate at Geneva airport on her way to London as part of a trip that began three days ago in Copenhagen. Just as she checks her email using her mobile, she hears the announcement that all flights to London have been cancelled. Using her mobile, she calls the airline rebooking desk and is quickly able to reschedule to a flight early tomorrow morning."

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Sales & Marketing: Selling Experiences

There are innumerable strategies that Hotel Sales and Marketing Directors employ to find, engage and entice guests to their property, and those strategies are constantly evolving. A breakthrough technology, pioneering platform, or even a simple algorithm update can cause new trends to emerge and upend the best laid plans. Sales and marketing departments must remain agile so they can adapt to the ever changing digital landscape. As an example, the popularity of virtual reality is on the rise, as 360 interactive technologies become more mainstream. Chatbots and artificial intelligence are also poised to become the next big things, as they take guest personalization to a whole new level. But one sales and marketing trend that is currently resulting in major benefits for hotels is experiential marketing - the effort to deliver an experience to potential guests. Mainly this is accomplished through the creative use of video and images, and by utilizing what has become known as User Generated Content. By sharing actual personal content (videos and pictures) from satisfied guests who have experienced the delights of a property, prospective guests can more easily imagine themselves having the same experience. Similarly, Hotel Generated Content is equally important. Hotels are more than beds and effective video presentations can tell a compelling story - a story about what makes the hotel appealing and unique. A video walk-through of rooms is essential, as are video tours in different areas of a hotel. The goal is to highlight what makes the property exceptional, but also to show real people having real fun - an experience that prospective guests can have too. The June Hotel Business Review will report on some of these issues and strategies, and examine how some sales and marketing professionals are integrating them into their operations.